A Day in Historic Yafo: A Dispatch from Tel Aviv-Yafo

3F43127C-4186-4657-B7B6-94A46859E597

Tel Aviv is an anachronism. In a country filled with so much history, the city feels somewhat out of place. In Israel, it’s known as “the bubble”; its self-contained nature leads it to feeling a million miles away from the rest of the country.

With less religious tension, a skyline littered with skyscrapers, a laid back attitude towards homosexuality, and Judaism, and a hedonistic nature: it’s completely at odds with Jerusalem, the country’s capital.

Yafo (Jaffa) is an ancient port with 4,000+ years of history. Situated at the southern end of Tel Aviv, a separate enclave abutted to, rather than an extension of the city, it has more charm than rest of Tel Aviv, with the Old Centre and restaurant lined port a refreshing antidote to the hustle and bustle of the metropolis to the north.

0DE2C519-BD4A-4822-A0E1-EC9A673D368A
The Tel Aviv skyline at dusk.
AAD78156-9F96-4138-9819-A7D0607BB7D1
A Yafo archway.

Predominantly Arab, it has a distinctly different vibe from the rest of the city too, where the Muezzin’s call to prayer carries across the sultry Mediterranean air. Best of all, it remains open on Friday nights and Saturday’s when the rest of the city shuts down for Shabbat (Sabbath).

With recent efforts to makeover the Old Centre yielding spectacular results, there’s never been a better time to get lost in the narrow streets and amble through ancient stone archways.

See:

St. Peter’s Church

A Franciscan style catholic church completed in 1894, it’s visible all the way along the shore and received special dispensation to be built facing west i.e. towards Rome. The red brick facade is a pleasant contrast to the white and grey buildings of Tel Aviv.

56056F12-ED26-4DC5-94C6-E53796CDA879
St. Peter’s Church.

The adjacent square and stone steps leading to the port, festooned with fairy lights, make for an atmospheric twilit stroll. The views from the road leading up to it offer spectacular views of Tel Aviv’s shore and skyline too.

Jaffa Port

One of the oldest ports in the world, Jaffa’s harbour is a lovely spot for a relaxed wander or a drink. The boardwalk is lined with cafés, bars and fish restaurants and is often packed with locals.

The Clock tower

9D6CEAE5-9CE2-406C-A32F-2D4CF445517B
The Clock Tower.

Limestone clock tower completed in 1903 to mark 25 years of rule of Sultan Abdulhamid II. This pretty tower is located near Yossi Carmel square, now a traffic choked roundabout. There’s some excellent home furnishing stores nearby.

Jaffa Flea Market

This ramshackle flea market in the heart of the Old City is a beloved institution. Housing boutique designer shops next to the old market stalls which sell everything from typical market tat to vintage clothes and furniture. This eclectic market is also home to cafés and pop-up bars which complete the convivial and lively atmosphere.

Eat:

Abouelefia Bakery

First opening its doors in 1879, this historic bakery is open 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. It has branches in other parts of the city, but this is the original. With a plethora of sweet and savoury options, it’s worth a visit for the decor alone. Beware though; there have been reviews online of tourists being overcharged. Always ask for prices first, and if you feel it’s too expensive, don’t be afraid to walk away.

DF90BDCB-6BEA-4294-92AF-9C66C5536967
The historic Abouelefia Bakery.

Café Puaa

A meal at Café Puaa is like dining in the world’s most eclectic front room, with a complete mismatch of furniture and decor giving it a “dinner at a friend’s house” vibe. An exciting and varied menu features classics like Mansaf (minced lamb and pine nuts on a bed of rice with yoghurt) and chicken schnitzel and plenty of vegan options. The Robin’s salmon salad is exceptional, as is the home-made Sangria.

9AE8FB19-B85D-4CC8-AB8C-41ED0F1C911B
Café Puaa’s dining room. All the furniture is for sale!

Abu Nassar Hinnawi

Deep into Yafo, far away from the tourist trail, Abu Nassar on the Hill is a chophouse restaurant and a quintessential Middle Eastern Experience. Before ordering your main, which include chicken and lamb kebab dishes, the table is completely filled with an assortment of salads and mezze including falafel and hummus, all served with freshly cooked pita breads. Service is shambolic but it’s all part of the charm.

Drink:

Cuckoo’s Nest

Housed in a warehouse adjacent to the flea market, Cuckoo’s Nest offers a good wine and cocktail menu in a lively and unique setting. With vintage furniture and doubling as an art gallery, it’s an eccentric spot to enjoy a drink (or two). An international vibe and varied playlist make this one-of-a-kind bar a must-visit.

78A67BA6-22C1-40E0-9DEC-C2219A539BFA
The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Fisherman Store

This atmospheric portside restaurant offers outdoor seating overlooking the marina and it’s a great spot for enjoying a cold Goldstar (local beer) and people watching late into the evening.

Thanks for reading,

Terry.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s